MoMA PS1 presents Rodney McMillian: Landscape Paintings, an exhibition of works by Los Angeles-based artist Rodney McMillian (b. 1969, Columbia, South Carolina). The exhibition is comprised of a suite of twelve paintings on bed sheets and an untitled video from 2005.
Sourced from thrift stores, the sheets that McMillian uses often bear price tags or traces of former owners, and their size alludes to the intimate encounter of bodies in bed. “I like that it’s a space for more than one person,” McMillian has remarked of his sheets, pointing to “the pleasures we have in bed like sleep, reading, sex.” Already laden with traces of personal and corporeal histories, this found bedding is transformed by the artist into works that engage the history of landscape painting. Using leftover paint from construction supply stores, McMillian responds to the absence of bodies in the history of landscape representation; his pours and splatters evoke what he describes as an “abject history of turmoil or the spillage of blood” that is often missing from the pastoral tradition.
Provoking questions about class and identity, as well as gender and sexuality, McMillian’s works also suggest relationships between inner and outer space. While evoking the body’s interior and the public landscape, his paintings at times also suggest the expansive space of the cosmos. Science fiction serves as a touchstone for McMillian, who finds in it an analogy for history; both often reveal more about the present than the worlds of the past or future they seek to conjure. McMillian’s landscapes are similarly complex and impure spaces. “My interest in landscapes and these materials is not only in locating them through a different historical lens,” the artist notes, “but also from a type of bodily perspective—as opposed to the shock and awe of the sublime or the godly.”
While Rodney McMillian: Landscape Paintings is on view at MoMA PS1, there will be two concurrent exhibitions of the artist's work taking place at The Studio Museum in Harlem and the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia. The Studio Museum will present Rodney McMillian: Views of Main Street (March 24–June 26, 2016), which brings together more than twenty key works that use symbols of domesticity to scrutinize the political and economic biases within the myth of a universal, middle-class “Main Street.” Rodney McMillian: The Black Show, on view at the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania (February 3–August 14, 2016), brings together a tightly focused selection of new and recent paintings, sculptures, and videos that deal with blackness as subject, form, process, emotion, and politics.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Rodney McMillian has had solo exhibitions at Aspen Art Museum (2015); Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (2015); and Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects (2013). His work has been included in numerous group exhibitions, including Blues for Smoke, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2012); the Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2008); the California Biennial, Orange County Museum of Art (2008); Philosophy of Time Travel, Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (2007); Ordinary Culture: Heikes/Helms/McMillian, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (2006); Painting in Tongues, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2006).
Rodney McMillian: Landscape Paintings is organized by the Aspen Art Museum. The exhibition is curated by Heidi Zuckerman and organized at MoMA PS1 by Peter Eleey, Curator and Associate Director of Exhibitions and Programs.